Ursula von der Leyen’s Green Deal for Europe: a start, but not enough by a long way

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Ursula von der Leyen, the new President of the European Commission has said in the very first section of her vision document that she wants what she calls a Green Deal for Europe, noting:

I want Europe to strive for more by being the first climate-neutral continent.

The message from Europe’s voters – and those too young to vote – is loud and clear: they want real action on climate change and they want Europe to lead the way.

I have been inspired by the passion, conviction and energy of the millions of our young people making their voice heard on our streets and in our hearts. They are standing up for their future and it is our generational duty to deliver for them.

Becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent is the greatest challenge and opportunity of our times. It involves taking decisive action now. We will need to invest in innovation and research, redesign our economy and update our industrial policy.

To help us achieve our ambition, I will propose a European Green Deal in my first 100 days in office.

This will include the first European Climate Law to enshrine the 2050 climate- neutrality target into law.

The words are vague, to be kind, and I'll wait for 100 days to pass, noting that peaceful protest has clearly played a part in shaping her thinking, and suspecting that it might still need to do so.

In particular, I note first of all far too great a reliance on private investment to achieve her plans, with no incentives or quantitative easing backstops mentioned.

Second, I am troubled by a focus on restoring economic growth which is wholly incompatible with the climate goals.

And third, I see too much mention of competition when market reform is vital to constrain excessive consumption - starting with supply-side constraints.

The words look good. Their wrapping is troubling. I am not convinced by this conflicted plan, and it will take a lot more to persuade me as yet.

A Green New Deal requires much more reform and considerably more intervention than is being proposed here. The last person to use the words Green Deal as an alternative to a Green New Deal was David Cameron in 2o10. The precedent is not encouraging.